Evidence Based

Dog Constipation – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Written by: Kristina Lalovic
Quite often dog constipation isn't observed by many owners. This increases the risk of having an untreated constipation that could lead to potentially life-threatening situations. Recognizing the first signs of irregular bowel movement and curing it right away might cut the risk of serious problems that might occur in absence of a proper treatment.

Canines are more frequently affected by digestive problems than any other health problem. That’s why getting to know the symptoms and relative treatment for each digestive issue is very important for every owner.

Among these tummy and bowel issues is constipation. While its symptoms might not be so apparent, its treatment is very important as untreated constipation may lead to more serious problems. In fact, quite often dog constipation isn’t even observed by many owners. (1)

That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of the poor bowel movement and to learn how to treat it. But, prevention is better than cure, so we will also talk about things that will help avoid dog constipation.

What Is Dog Constipation?

According to medicine, constipation is a difficult, painful or reduced defecation over a period of time ranging from days to weeks or even months. (2) In regular words, it is an inability or difficulty to have regular bowel movements.

The causes of constipation might be simple as having a diet that is fiber deficient, but it could also imply other bigger problems, so this problem should never be ignored. Also, if left untreated constipation might cause serious health problems in the future.

Let’s discover what are the causes that lead to a poor bowel movement.

Causes of Constipation

The factors that contribute to getting constipation are many. They can go from nutrition to stress or hormone production. But let’s break down all those reasons that might lead your dog to have a painful and irregular bowel movement.

  • Dehydration
  • Eating Something Inappropriate
  • Swallowing a Foreign Object
  • Blocked or Abcessed Anal Sacks
  • Insufficient Dietary Fiber in Diet
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Enlarged Prostate
  • Hernia
  • Kidney Disease
  • Obesity
  • Side Effects From Medication
  • Intestinal Obstruction, Intestinal Tumors
  • Nerve Damage
  • Stress

As you can see, the factors that might lead to constipation are really diverse. However, studies suggest that the most frequent causes of dog constipation are dehydration and ingestion of foreign bodies, as well as anal sacculitis. (3)

Basically, if you think your dog has it (we will get to the symptoms soon), you can think of examining these three categories of canine constipation causes to get a better idea of what could be creating this digestive problem.

The causes could come from:

  • a partial or complete obstruction inside of the colon
  • factors outside the colon that lead to obstructive constipation
  • outside factors such as hormonal imbalances, health conditions, diet, exercise or nerve injury.

Be aware that ingestion of a foreign object doesn’t necessarily mean your dog swallowed a toy. It could be grass, hair, or even a rock he found in the park. If you suspect your dog has ingested some of it, and he didn’t poop it out afterward, you should bring him to the vet as soon as possible.

Risk factors

Researchers found the link between constipation and estrogen rather than progesterone. (4) This means that some females are more prone to having an irregular bowel movement than their male friends.

Aging in dogs may also lead to frequent constipation issues.

Obesity may be one of the causes of canine constipation. This means certain risk factors that indicate a higher probability of your dog becoming overweight, might also indicate higher chances of developing poor bowel movement.

A study suggests that middle-aged dogs, neutered dogs, females and certain breeds are more prone to being overweight. (5) Labrador retrievers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, and Beagles are indicated as breeds that suffer from obesity more often than others.

Why we’re linking these two? Because some of the causes are overlapping. Lack of exercise, poor diet and generally an indoors lifestyle are among factors that might lead to developing both of these conditions.


Sometimes dog constipation goes unnoticed in many dog owners. Learning the signs of when your dog is constipated may help you in maintaining your dog’s health.

How to know when your dog is constipated?

If you notice that your dog is having troubles pooping and experiencing pain is the most apparent symptom there is. But, your pet might still be able to defecate and have constipation at the same time. In this case, the stool will be very dry and pebble-like. The amount of stool will be smaller than of the one with a proper bowel movement.

Irregularity in pooping is a sign that constipation might be on its way.

These symptoms are not so alarming, but should, however, be treated. You could probably cure constipation in this stage with one of our treatment or prevention methods. But, if you notice one or more of the following symptoms, you should involve vet help as soon as possible:

  • Couple of Days or More Without Defecating
  • Difficulty or Inability to Urinate
  • Apparent Pain or Distress While Trying to Poop
  • Blood in Stool
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite

These symptoms indicate that constipation has worsened and has arrived in a riskier stage. You have to take constipation seriously, as sometimes it indicates potentially life-threatening conditions.

If your dog starts having a regular bowel movement again, but then constipation recurs after a couple of days, go see your vet. Repeated constipation might be indicating a more complicated problem that has to involve professional intervention.

Not treating constipation might lead to obstipation, chronic constipation in which a dog is unable to empty his bowels without an exterior help. What happens is that his colon gets filled with a large amount of feces which can often lead to lethargy, vomiting, and lack of appetite. This is usually followed with a condition called mega-colon. (6)


Once the vet examines the cause and gravity of your dog’s constipation, he will probably suggest some of these treatment methods:

  • A Stool Softener or A Laxative Agent
  • Medication for Strengthening Large Intestine
  • Change in Diet (Adding fiber)
  • Increased exercise
  • Enema treatment

Treating First Signs of Dog Constipation at Home

Hydration. The first thing to do when constipation occurs is to add a sufficient amount of moisture to your dog’s body. Hydrating your dog by adding water to his food might reduce the chances of dehydration.

Canned food. Sometimes too much dry food can also lead to an irregular bowel movement. Try switching to high-quality canned alternative, as it contains more liquid.

High-fiber food. Add some green beans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes or bananas to your dog’s food. The amount of fiber found in these veggies might help your dog out.

Exercise. Take your dog for long walks and make his day more active. Sedentary lifestyle might lead to inactive bowels, and sometimes, a bit of movement might solve the constipation problem.

Treatment of Severe Dog Constipation

Enema treatment is an option when other methods do not work. But, sometimes, the severity of the situation requires an immediate enema treatment that will clear the colon. This treatment has to be administered by a professional, as in some cases a dog must be fully anesthetized in order to remove stool from inaccessible parts of bowel.

In case of obstipation or colon tumors, a colectomy might be necessary. With this surgery, a part of the bowel that caused the stool blockage is removed.


running with your dog

Whether if your dog has experienced constipation before or not, you can still do plenty of things to prevent it. On the other hand, if your dog suffers from a chronic irregular bowel movement, you should follow your vet’s advice.

Let’s list out all the recommendations that could help your pup to have a healthy bowel movement and lead a happy life with no pain.

Regular Exercise Routine

A dog’s body doesn’t enjoy a sedentary lifestyle. Your dog has to keep moving in order to have a proper bowel movement. So, if you think your dog spends too much time indoors, introducing plenty of exercises and outdoor playtime will bring him plenty of benefits.

Being at fresh air and socializing with other pups will additionally enrich your dog’s life. It will also make your dog less stressed which is always good for his health.

Healthy, Balanced Diet

Sometimes eating too much dry food or eating the wrong kinds of food may cause a constipation problem. Most dogs will benefit from having a bit more of dietary fiber in their diet, so preparing some cooked meals for them might be a good thing to do. However, exaggerating in the amount of fiber fed might lead to diarrhea. So, be careful with serving sizes!

Certain raw foods also help in having a healthy, active bowel movement. Some of those are pumpkin, bananas, green beans, cabbage etc. Look for well-balanced recipes you can make for your dog that might make his digestion easier.

Plenty of Fresh Water

Make sure your dog has always a bowl of fresh water. The more he drinks, the better it is. Dehydration is a very serious condition that might end up not only in constipation but also in more serious health conditions.

Plenty of fresh water will make your dog feel more energized, happy and healthy. None of the other suggestions will work if you don’t hydrate your dog properly.


While probiotics are more likely suggested in cases of diarrhea, these fermented products actually help in maintaining healthy bacteria in intestines and improve bowel movements. Discover everything there is to know about them in this article and decide if you will include this method of prevention or not.

There are also things that you should avoid in treating or preventing constipation in your dog. Do not give your dog human laxatives, high fiber grains, mineral oil and never do enema by yourself, because it could lead to life-threatening injuries and infections.